DEADCEMBER Nutrition Plan: The Season of Grains and Gains
Over the next 30 days the Christmas cookies and egg nog will be flowing freely. Most have little concern for their body composition or nutrition plan through the holidays as the focus is on family, friends, and making memories. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to spur some new muscle growth and put those excess calories to use.
However, most assume this means a free for all. They consume calories ad libitum and train occasionally to stave off the metabolic consequences of a high sugar, high fat, and high alcohol intake.
While that approach may appeal to the masses given the simplicity and lack of dietary restriction, it will likely result in nothing more than long-term frustration and a general state of poor health.
You need a game plan and you needed it yesterday. Here it is.
Time Your Liquids
If you’re like most regular gym goers, you’re probably somewhat conscious about your liquid calorie intake. But, the holidays have a way of making people forget about their habitual routines. Here’s how to eat, drink, and be merry while still prioritizing your health and wellness.
If you’re going to consume liquid calories in the form of sugar (soda, juice, tea, etc.), you should probably try to time most of those liquids to just before or right after a workout when you’re most insulin sensitive.
Whenever you consume carbohydrates, your body has multiple types of transporters (GLUT family) which help to process sugar in the blood stream and turn it into glycogen. After a workout, research has shown a dramatic increase in GLUT 4 activity which functions primarily to regulate glucose storage within skeletal muscle as glycogen.
In other words, this little transporter ensures that you shuttle glucose primarily into the muscle when it is most insulin sensitive and receptive to carbohydrates that can replenish glycogen.
While alcohol can pose an issue from a caloric standpoint, the much larger issue is its effect on one’s sleep quality. You’ll see many promoting the idea of a “night cap” to help reduce sleep latency (aka the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep). But, on the contrary, alcohol actually worsens your sleep quality.
You see, alcohol blocks the brain from acquiring REM sleep by inducing a state of sedation. When you aren’t able to enter the deepest stage of restorative sleep, you run into some major metabolic consequences.
Your best bet is to put alcohol further away from sleep whenever possible. Have a glass of wine with dinner or a drink for happy hour. But resist the urge to drink once the sun sets, your sleep quality depends on it.
Choose Your Carbs Carefully
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t pay attention to your gut health. You eat what you want, live life on your own terms, and let your physician figure out the rest.
That’s all well and good, until they’re stumped and you hit a dead end. This is where self-experimentation and a general knowledge of gastrointestinal function can come in handy.
Changes in GI frequency/stool composition
Undigested food in your stool
Most folks assume that these are just “common” symptoms associated with digestion.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: “DO NOT MISTAKE COMMON WITH NORMAL.”
Sleep deprivation is common, it is not normal. Constipation is common, it is not normal.
If you struggle with getting in enough calories due to issues with absorption and assimilation of nutrients, you may want to take a step back and consider the bigger picture.
Until you decide to address your gut health and sleep hygiene, you will consistently fall short of your fitness goals.
White is Right
If you want a simple and effective “hack” to improve your gut health, here’s a great place to start: Stop listening to all the bros on YouTube and eat WHITE rice. Not brown rice, white rice.
Hypoallergenic - White rice is hypoallergenic, meaning your immune system won’t tag it with inflammatory markers (IgE, IgA, IgM, IgG, IgD) during digestion and set off a cytokine cascade.
Versatility - You can use white rice is nearly every dish known to man: chili, fajitas, fish tacos, stir fry, rice pudding, etc. Boredom generally leads to a lack of adherence as humans have a knack for falling for the “shiny object syndrome”.
High Resistant Starch Potential - Resistant starch is essentially an indigestible element of rice which helps to feed beneficial microorganisms within your gut microbiome. When you cook and cool rice, this increases the resistant starch content via a process known as retrogradation.
Low Fiber - This may sound counterintuitive to folks given the fitness industry is constantly pimping high fiber foods as the solution to everything from colon cancer to high interest rates and unsubsidized student loans. While fiber can help if someone is dealing with constipation, high fiber diets can make matters worse if SIBO, IBS, or IBD is suspected.
Don’t Forget the D
While this isn’t a nutritional recommendation per say, vitamin D is technically a nutrient one can consume, so we need to touch on it. This becomes especially important in the winter months when temperatures drops. Folks spend more time indoors, and long sleeves/pants become a daily occurrence.
As a result, vitamin D supplementation becomes a necessity for most. Besides its role in immune function and regulatory T-cell activity, vitamin D also plays a key function in gastroenterological health and mood disorders.
Most cells involved in immune function carry receptors for vitamin D. Thus, more sun exposure will subsequently improve immune function via endogenous vitamin D production. – Dr. Aristo Vojdani (PhD - Immunologist & Toxicologist)
But, we should remember that vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it’s not readily removed in the urine like other water soluble nutrients (e.g. vitamin C). Therefore, it’s likely wise to keep an eye on your vitamin D levels via bloodwork.
You probably want to see your numbers pop anywhere between 50-100ng/mL, some endocrinologists and integrative practitioners might even argue the bottom end of that range should start at 70ng/mL.
Needless to say, it’s probably a good idea to get some bloodwork and/or consider a daily dosage of 4000-5000IUs per day for most adults in the winter months.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animal.